Unraveling the mysterious lives of marine predators
Ph.D. candidate Frances Farabaugh and research specialist Kirk Gastrich collect data for long-term research on the ecological role of sharks. They are members of a team led by marine scientist Mike Heithaus, executive dean of the College of Arts, Sciences & Education. The group employs technologies such as drones and animal-borne cameras to unravel the mysterious lives of hard-to-study marine creatures such as sharks, rays, whales and their prey. They are part of a larger network of FIU researchers helping to improve conservation of marine predators and the overall health of the ocean. In addition to informing conservation strategies, the shark team’s work has been used as the underpinning for affecting positive policy changes on a global scale. Read more about FIU's shark research.
Saving the world’s only scaly mammal
FIU leads Operation Pangolin, an international collaboration to save the world’s most trafficked wild mammal. These evolutionarily distinct and globally endangered mammals are in dire need of urgent conservation action. However, little is known about the trafficking supply chains that move at least 250,000 pangolins out of African and Asian forests to consumers in China, Vietnam and elsewhere every year. Leveraging technology, machine-learning and interdisciplinary team-based science, FIU researchers are developing solutions to the global pangolin crisis. To read more, click here.
Pictured here: Mathieu Assovi, a Ph.D. candidate in conservation biology and wildlife management at Felix Houphouet- Boigny University in Cote d’Ivoire.
Molecular modeling joins the fight against antibiotic resistance
Accurate models of bacterial cell walls could potentially aid in the fight against antibiotic resistance, a growing global problem. This 3-D molecular model of the gram-positive bacterium S. aureus’ cell wall, featuring a mesh of cross- linked peptidoglycan (PG) strands and peptide stems, is enabling a greater understanding of how antibacterial drugs interact and diffuse through a protective mesh of PG layers.
As computer modeling and molecular simulation techniques are increasingly being used in drug design, accurate atomic-scale models of the bacterial cell wall may aid in developing novel antibiotics that can mitigate the threat of antimicrobial resistance. The molecular model shown here is a step toward this goal.
Developed in the lab of physicist Prem Chapagain, associate director of the Biomolecular Sciences Institute, the image was featured on the cover of the October 2022 issue of Journal of Chemical Information and Modeling.
Fish on drugs?
A three-year study led by FIU and the Bonefish & Tarpon Trust (BTT) discovered pharmaceuticals — including blood pressure medications, antidepressants, antibiotics and pain relievers — in the blood and tissues of bonefish. These contaminants pose a threat to one of Florida’s most valuable, economically important fisheries. Jennifer Rehage — the study’s lead scientist and professor in the Institute of Environment — and BTT research associates, in partnership with Sweden’s Umeå University and the University of Agricultural Sciences (SLU), sampled 93 fish in Biscayne Bay and the Florida Keys. On average, they found seven pharmaceuticals per bonefish. Rehage and the team recently completed a second study showing medications are also in Florida redfish, providing further evidence these waterborne contaminants are a statewide concern.